Commentary: ‘Gymtimidation’ is real


Courtesy of Gale Stewart of Newsline

The Ray allows full-time undergrad students unlimited access to athletic facilities.

One of the many privileges we have as DePaul students is unlimited access to The Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center. Walking into this gym, you are greeted with a bright and open lobby with ping pong tables and cafe with snacks and smoothies. It all seems very inviting. However, the second you walk up the stairs into the main gym space, you immediately face buff and sweaty gym bros who look like they have infinite knowledge about working out. Here is a little secret: they definitely do not. 

The world of musty gym mats and weight machines working muscles you have never even heard of can be extremely intimidating. One thing that almost everyone experiences at least once throughout their gym journey is gym anxiety. The common fear of messing up in day to day life is still present in the gym, even if you have been a regular at your favorite stairmaster for years. 

When the world shut down in 2020 due to COVID-19, DePaul sophomore Naomi Greene decided to try some new exercises from the comfort of her own home with her dad’s gym equipment. She did not have to worry about being judged by gym enthusiasts. Once she came to DePaul she decided to take advantage of the gym and continue her workout journey. However, she quickly realized how overwhelming a public gym can be compared to your home basement. 

“I feel like I’m acting,” Greene said. “It feels like I know people are looking at me and there’s more added pressure to look good all the time as well as doing every exercise perfectly.” 

Despite visiting the gym three to four times a week, Greene’s anxiety persisted each time she walked through the revolving door. The environment is what makes her nervous, not the lack of experience. 

DePaul student and Ray employee, Nicho Rodgers, has been an athlete since he was 7 years old yet he still experiences anxiety to some extent when working out. 

“Being new to something can be difficult, but I try to remind myself that no one at the gym is there to judge me,” Rodgers said. 

Even with years of experience, Rodgers still does not find simplicity in trying a new workout. No one does. It seems to be a “fake it till you make it” game with most people. 

However, experience can create a routine that helps you develop ways to push through the common anxiety you might feel. Both Rodgers and Greene said that bringing headphones and playing music that makes them feel good inevitably makes the entire workout feel good as well.

“Playing music that helps me escape reality also helps me escape the anxiety I feel at the gym, at least for a little while,” Greene said. 

Being in college after quitting sports from your childhood can add a whole new level of gym anxiety. The pressure to uphold your old fitness standards is never easy. We expect ourselves to maintain the same body that we had when we were sixteen throughout our adulthood, but that is just not an obtainable reality. 

I grew up participating in multiple sports throughout my entire childhood up until sophomore year of high school. Seeing my body change throughout the past few years from not exercising at least five days a week at practices was hard to comprehend. 

I would get nervous at the gym thinking everyone was judging my lack of heavy weight lifting and horrible mile time on the treadmill, as if they knew my fitness standards before. I had to restructure what my mind deemed a successful workout. Sometimes that itself was more nerve-wracking than the actual act of exercising. 

No matter how many times someone tells you that people at the gym are not there to judge you, it is still insanely hard to make your mind actually understand that. The fear of being judged is entirely where gym anxiety stems from. 

It can be even more difficult for people whose only fitness journey was their high school P.E. class. Taking up an interest in anything that you have little to no experience in is rough, but that is not to say that it is impossible. Especially when it comes to the gym, everyone starts somewhere. Whether that is when you are 7 years old or in your senior year of college, it is never too late to try something. Everyone is experiencing the same anxiety. Everyone starts somewhere.